Sunday, June 9, 2013

Brian Webb spent many years working in a number of capacities for the US government.  His duties took him to many parts of the world - some friendly and many not so friendly!  In the course of his travels, often alone, his safety was totally dependent on what he did to keep himself safe. Open My Eyes captures the lessons he learned while on the road - lessons that kept him safe in some of the worlds most dangerous places.

Chapters in Open My Eyes include:
- Understanding the dangers
- Perceptions and Intuition
- Pre-Travel Preparation
- Hotel Safety and Security
- Situational Awareness
- Foreign Travel
- Basics of Hostage Survival

............and many more. 

Brian's concise, personal writing style makes this book "an easy read."  If you adopt and practice the advice he gives you will be far less likely to have a problem when next you travel and, should something unpleasant happen, you'll be better equipped to handle it.  
It is unfortunate that so many people fall into the trap of believing that nothing bad is ever going to happen to them and if it does, they will be able to muddle through somehow.  They believe that if they get in trouble in the US or overseas, someone is always going to come to their assistance.  In the "real world" bad things do happen to good people and sometimes no one comes to help.  Take responsibility for your own safety - no one cares more about you than you do! 

Brian specializes in conducting training sessions for those people about to depart on overseas Mission Trips.  He can be contacted through his website

Sunday, May 19, 2013

When the Grid Goes Down

I have always admired Tony Nester's broad range of survival  knowledge.  My admiration was reinforced a month ago when I received a copy of his new book "When The Grid Goes Down" published by Diamond Creek Press. This is not Tony's first venture into the disaster preparedness arena having previously published Surviving A Disaster: Evacuation Strategies and Emergency Kits For Staying Alive." and his two DVD series Tony Nester's Practical Urban Survival.

The beauty of Tony's  recommendations is that they are "practical."  All too often survival books, with rare exception, are not very practical and advocate techniques and procedures that are difficult to learn quickly and even more difficult to employ when needed in a crisis.  Tony keeps it simple.

Here is a list of the topics he covers in the book:

- How to Create A Self-Reliant Home
- Water Storage and Purification Methods
- Food Recommendations and Storage
- A First Aid Kit That You Can Live With
- Home Security and Personal Defense
- When The Power Goes Out: Heating, Cooling, Lighting and Cooking
- Handling Long-term Sanitation & Hygiene Issues

This is not a large book, only 77 pages, nor is it an expensive book, only $12.95, but it is a book that strips away the fluff and deals with the practical, no-nonsense issues relative to staying alive when the infrastructure we have come to rely on is not functioning.   It is an easy read and if you follow his advice you will be well on your way to being better prepared When the Grid Goes Down.

Contact Tony at

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

New Stuff

One of the pleasures of traveling the country as much as I do, is meeting people - and especially those people with new ideas, new ways to solve old problems, new tools to make life a little easier when times are tough - entrepreneurial people.

Meet Patrish Brady.  Patrish is the owner of Shooting Star Nursery LLC located in Washington State.  Shooting Star Nursery is a tree farm and tree farms produce lots of tree waste!  Looking for a way to make use of the waste produced in the process of farming trees, and to improve the farms financial income, Patrish and her family came up with a novel product - "Sparke!"  More than just another aid to starting a fire Sparkes can be used as a "stand-alone" source of heat. 

I first came across them at the Washington Sportsmen's Show in Puyallup, Washington earlier this year when Patrish came by my survival exhibit and asked me what I thought of her product.  Never one to jump on the bandwagon I listened to her explanation of the Sparke and how it could be used.  It was immediately obvious to me that the ground-up tree debris saturated with wax had potential. 

It wasn't until late March that I had a chance to actually test the Sparke to see if it was all that Patrish and her son said it was.  It was - and more!  If you were to walk through the camping section of any sporting goods store you would see a multitude of fire starting aids available for sale.  Over the years I have tested most of them and, almost without exception, found them wanting!  So what makes makes a Sparke so much better?

Well to start with, it is easy to light.  A wick that can be lit on either end runs the full length of the brick.  I placed the Sparke in a ceramic dish to contain the fire and to collect the residue.

I lit the wick on either side of the brick and it quickly igniting the wax and the ground-up tree-farm residue that the brick is made from.

Once lit, the combination of wax and vegetable matter burned hot and long!  Initially there was a bit of black smoke but as the heat increased the amount of smoke decreased. At this point I noticed that there was a considerable amount of melted wax collecting in the dish.  Knowing this I would always recommend placing a fuel source that contains wax or petroleum jelly in a container that will collect the melted fuel. Doing so will increase the burn time of the Sparke.

As the minutes passed the flame gradually diminished.  This photograph was taken 23 minutes after the Sparke was lit.

Before the flame burned out I took a stick and stirred the remains breaking it apart whereupon the flames flared again for a few more minutes.

When it finally burned out all that was left was ash - and not much of that!

The Sparke that I used was one of four contained in a package of four bricks.  The weight of the bricks varied from 2.9oz to 4.1ozs The Sparke that I tested weighed 2.9ozs and burned for twenty-seven minutes.

 I also burned a Sparke during the blizzard that swept through Colorado Springs on the 9th of April.  The temperature that morning was 15 degrees F. with winds gusting between 30 and 40 mph and light snow.  This Sparke weighed 3.7 oz. and burned for 38 minutes before burning out.  At the height of the burn, using an infrared heat measuring device, I measured the temperature of the flame at 541.9 degrees F.

The only difficulty I experienced was lighting the wick.  Because of the high winds it took two matches to get this done.  Once alight it remained lit despite the very gusty winds.  I made no particular effort to protect the Sparke.

CONCLUSIONS:  None of the fire starting products that are currently available in the retail stores that cater to those who recreate or work in the outdoors are as good as the Sparke  - by a huge margin! (Note to you readers - the Sparke website is still being developed so please be patient until it comes online.)    In the meantime give Patrish a call and place an order (509-465-5685)

The larger Sparke will be very useful for home owners who enjoy their wood burning fireplaces and to those who still rely on wood burning furnaces to heat their homes.  It should also appeal to the car camping community and others who use some form of vehicle to get themselves into the back-country.  The smaller size Sparke is ideally suited to back-packers who need a reliable way to get a fire going.  The smaller size would also be a good addition to an emergency kit.  In short, a Sparke would be useful to anyone who wants to start a fire quickly and reliably, particularly when weather conditions make it difficult to do so.

I will continue to evaluate both the large and the small Sparke throughout the rest of the year and if anything new shows up I will share it with you.  In the meantime check them out yourself and let me know what you think of them.

Emergency Kit - $5.00
Mini- 2-pack - $6.00
4-pack - $12.00

DISCLAIMER: OutdoorSafe Inc accepts no money from any manufacturer to promote their products.  The opinions expressed are mine and are based on my independent testing under field conditions. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Number One.  You have to accept the fact that, as good an outdoors-man or women as you may be, sometimes things happen that precipitate you into a crisis when you least expect it and you’d better be ready to cope with, what will be one of the most difficult challenges to your life that you have ever faced.
Number Two.  Never say “I am just……”  Saying “I am just going to….” (You fill in the blank) is a denial of the possibility that anything will go wrong and a denial of the need to carry an emergency kit or protective clothing with you.  After all “what could possibility go wrong?”   A lot can go wrong, it can go wrong quickly and you can die!
Number Three.  Always carry the means to shelter yourself, to start a fire and to attract the attention of people who are looking for you and, perhaps more importantly, people who are not looking for you but might be in your vicinity.  To that end your emergency gear should include a waterproof, windproof shelter that you can crawl into or crawl under.  If you expect to be able to construct a shelter from natural materials as advocated by many outdoor writers you will be sadly disappointed. To build such a shelters take skill, time, resources and an able-bodied person.  Save yourself the trouble – carry a large orange or royal blue plastic bag to crawl into when you need protection.
Carry a metal match and a supply of cotton balls saturated with Vaseline.  This mixture is the most reliable combination of fire starting aids available to you.   Practice building a fire
Carry a whistle and purposefully made glass signal mirror.  You can blow a whistle as long as you can breath.  With a mirror, given that you have sunlight, you can bounce a beam of sunlight to a passing airplane, boat or person on a distant hillside many miles away.
Number Four.  Prepare for the five scenarios that commonly result in a person having to spend a night out:
1. Becoming lost
2. Not making it back to camp or vehicle before the sun sets.
3. Becoming stranded when the vehicle that took you into the back country malfunctions.
4.  Becoming ill or injured to the point that you are unable to make your own way out.
5. When weather makes it dangerous to continue traveling.
In each situation finding the safest campsite possible and then using your emergency equipment and survival skills to defend your body temperature is your best course of action.
Number Five.   Don’t let the concerns of others and what they might be thinking affect your decision-making.  Don’t let the promises or the commitments  you made to others drive you to continue trying to make it back in the face of darkness, rough terrain or inclement weather.  Do what is in your best interest and survive.
Number Six.  Always tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to be back.  Better still leave a trip plan with two people who you have briefed on what to do in the event you do not return.  Remember that having left a trip plan you are obligated to stick to the plan.  If you fail to leave a trip plan, or don’t update the plan, days may pass before an active search begins in your location.
Number Seven.  Be ready to deal with fear and the panic that usually results when you are confronted with a crisis.  It is ludicrous to say “don’t panic!” Everybody is going to panic.  Even the most experienced outdoorsman or woman will experience a momentary twinge of discomfort when faced with a potentially life threatening situation.  But, unlike the novice, an experienced person will recognize the discomfort for what it is  – a warning that things aren’t right!  A warning to back away and reconsider the situation.  Remember the “get-off-your-feet, have drink of water, stay put for at least thirty minutes” routine described earlier.
Number Eight.  Keep faith.  In yourself and your ability to survive based on your preparations.  Keep faith in the search and rescue system and the ability of the searchers to find you.  Keep faith in your family.  The strongest catalyst you have to keep you going, when everything appears to be against you, is your desire to be reunited with your family and friends.  Carry something to reinforce that desire – a photograph works.
The time is sure to come when you will have spend an unplanned night out. When that times comes it’s not important “what Peter would do” but what is important is “what you will do!”  Your life depends on it

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Survival & Navigation Class June 13-17 2013

 I'd like to put in a pitch for the outdoor safety class that Ralph Wilfong and I teach for the US Forest Service each year at the Nine Mile Heritage Center, Huson, Montana.  This is the only class I teach where I set the date and invite others to attend.  Normally I go  wherever I am invited to speak, present the class and then go back to Colorado.

The class is five days long.  Two and half days of survival training followed by two and a half days of of map, compass and GPS training.  I lead the survival phase and Ralph leads the navigation phase.  It is a very comprehensive program and, by the time you graduate, you will have a very solid foundation in those skills you need to survive an unplanned night out and the knowledge and skills to effectively navigate the back country.

You can take either the survival training or the navigation training - or both.  You save yourself $50 if you take both!  The cost for each phase is $250 but again if you stay for the full five days it will only cost you $450.

The program is designed to prepare you to spend a night out with a minimum of gear - but the right gear!  We do not teach aboriginal skills (rubbing sticks together to start a fire) but focus on quick shelters, effective fire building techniques, signaling techniques that work and the steps you need to take to keep yourself warm and hydrated.

In order to keep the costs down Ralph and I camp out at the Heritage Center and invite those who attend to do likewise.  You can also stay at one of the local B&Bs or motels if you wish.

If you are interested give Ralph or me a call.  If you want to sign up give the US Forest Service a call.  Also keep in mind that we only accept twelve people in the class so it tends to fill quickly

Peter Kummerfeldt   - 719-650-8925
Ralph Wilfong  - 509-993-0092
Nine Mile Heritage Center - 406-626-5403

Follow-up on Battery Leakage Problem

It is always a pleasure to have someone respond to my blog or other piece of writing with a constructive comment or addition to whatever topic I was writing about.  I received an email several weeks ago from Andrea Hill who had read a blog entry I wrote about leaky batteries.  Andrea had solved the problem!  She wrote "I found a great trick to keeping batteries in the actual device but keeping leaking from happening over long periods of inactivity.  I cut a small round of thin plastic (the cheap tupperware you get with lunch meat is a good thickness) and place it in between the battery and the connector to stop the phantom flow of electricity that circulates even when you aren't using the device.  Just remove the plastic piece when you are ready to turn it on!  I haven't had an issue since starting this."  Thank you Andrea.  I'm sure this suggestion will save a lot of battery powered electrical devices.

I am sure many of you who read this blog also have other great ideas regarding making our equipment work when we need it to work - and to work well especially when our lives are on the line.  Please feel free to send them my way.  I won't promise I will publish them all but will make others aware of your suggestions if they have broad application.  Sharp, well exposed photographs would be welcome too.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Stay With Your Car


It’s officially winter!  Have you given any thought to what it might be like to spend a night in your car stuck in a ditch somewhere?  Today’s news broadcast reports on the search for a woman who walked away from her car after it slid of the road.  As I write this she is still missing and presumed to be dead.  I’m would hazard a guess that more people each year end up in survival situations after a car accident than do in the backwoods of America.   To continue that thought a step further I would also guess that those people that end “surviving” after a car accident are less prepared than those on a backpacking trip.  We have complete faith in our vehicles ability to get us from one place to the next without incident.  Few people “dress to survive” they “dress to arrive.!

Here’s what I think you should have in your car:

Cellular phone with a charger
4 - quart water bottles
Dehydrated meal with heating element (Military MREs)
Carbohydrate food bars
Toilet paper
Tools (jacket, lug wrench, shovel. windshield ice scraper, multipurpose tool)
Road flares
Tow strap
Booster cables
Blankets or sleeping bags
Chemical warmers
Light sticks
Metal cup
Basic first aid kit
Additional warm clothing to include warm gloves and work gloves.
Winter footwear
Two empty #10 cans (one for melting snow and one for sanitary purposes)
Sack of cat litter (to improve tire traction)
Personal Emergency Beacon
Spare personal critical medications
Flashlight and spare batteries
Portable radio with spare batteries
Ski goggles
Duct tape or Gorilla Tape
Book to read
50 feet of cord
GPS receiver (provides latitude and longitude coordinates)

If you're stuck in your car stay with your car!  Alert someone. Bring all of your supplies into the car where you can easily access them.  Stay warm.  Be patient.  Help will come!